Study # 1
Thesis: The Lincoln Community Bible Church exists to bring certainty to theophiles so that they may walk in the light by faith.
Introduction: As we begin what may well be a long and, at times, difficult journey as a community of the faith, we need to have a legitimate justification for existing in distinction from all of the other communities of faith that exist in our neck of the woods. Therefore we are going to ask ourselves this question this morning: why do we exist as a Church?
I would like to begin to address this question by asking you to turn in your Bibles to Acts 17:15-34. Here we have an account of the apostle Paul as he traveled to Athens. In this account there are two statements made by Luke that have significance to us. The first one is Paul's statement in verses 22-23:
August 3, 2003
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. (AV)
The second one is verse 34:
Howbeit certain men clave unto him and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (AV)
The point of these two statements is that Paul faced the same thing we face this morning -- a large community of very religious people with a huge variety of theologies -- and when he proclaimed God's truth, some believed and joined themselves to him. It is our expectation, believing as we do that God has been working behind the scenes to bring the Lincoln Community Bible Church into existence, that we will see the same kinds of things in Lincolnton that Paul saw in Athens -- some very religious people who sneered at the truth and some who recognized it as truth when they heard it.
But someone may say, "Darrel, many of the 'theologies' in Lincolnton are 'Christian'. Why does Lincoln county need another one that may well be just a variation of several that are already here? Is not the multiplication of churches more a matter of man's ego (much like the time in Israel when the judges ruled) than the will of God?". This is a legitimate question, and it deserves a biblical answer. So, this morning we are going to attempt to give a biblical answer.
Turn with me, if you will, to Luke 1:1-4 [and just a brief word here about translations in the context of the King James only crowd: we are not going to play that game; people who use translation questions as litmus tests for theological accuracy have no interest in the Truth and we have no interest in playing their games].
- I. Luke's Concept of "I Also".
- A. Luke freely admitted that "many" others had already decided to attempt to make the truth known.
- B. Luke felt no intimidation for adding his efforts to those already in the works.
- C. We, likewise, feel no intimidation for adding our efforts to those which are already in the works for two reasons:
- 1. Any truly committed disciple of Jesus will not object to another effort to make God's truth readily available to the people of God in any given area [note Paul's attitude in Philippians 1:18].
- 2. The only people who will object are those who are afraid that any new effort will bleed off people and resources that they want for their own efforts.
- a. This is the old, carnal, nickels and noses mentality that makes two huge mistakes:
- 1) Success is not measured by nickels and noses [by that standard, both Noah and Paul were dismal failures].
- 2) God's activity in the background determines who will join themselves to the Church and who will contribute to its efforts to do the will of God (Acts 2:47 and 2 Corinthians 9:10).
- D. Thus, we make no apologies to anyone for adding our voices to the many that are already out there.
- II. Luke's Audience of One.
- A. Luke wrote both his Gospel and his follow-up record of the Acts of God through the Apostles to one man: Theophilus.
- B. These two records are significantly addressed to this man, whose name was Theophilus.
- 1. Names, in the Bible, are treated as significant.
- a. First, the names of all of the saints have been written by God's appointment from the foundation of the world (Revelation 17:8).
- b. Second, the names of biblical persons are treated by biblical writers as having "meaning-significance".
- 1) Matthew 1 tells us that Jesus was to be specifically named "Jesus" because "He" was to "save His people from their sins".
- 2) Jesus deliberately changed Peter's name from Simon to Peter in John 1:42 [the Aramaic word is the Greek equivalent of Peter].
- 3) In Hebrews 7:1, the inspired author deliberately made a point of the meaning of the name as well as the title of the one named.
- 2. The name, "Theophilus", is not without enormous significance in Luke's record.
- a. First, it's meaning is deliberately tied to the issue of a life of godliness that is accomplished by "faith".
- 1) Theophilus is a combination name that means "friend of God".
- 2) In James 2:23 this is the very title of Abraham in the final stages of his life of victorious faith.
- a) In the context, the issue of friendship is identified in verse 21 as being the issue of giving up the most important "love" for the sake of "obedience".
- b) This is important because of what Jesus said in John 15:14.
- 3) In the Lincoln Community Bible Church we are ultimately only interested in being used of God to develop His friends in their friendship with God.
- a) Anyone who joins himself/herself to this body and then proves to not be God's friend, will be put out of this body according to the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 18.
- b) Anyone who wants to be friends with God will find help here, but not perfection.
- b. Second, it's meaning is "prophetic".
- 1) Luke told his reader that he was going to write meticulously and with complete accuracy for one reason: that his reader might develop certainty in respect to the things believed.
- 2) The truth is this: only the friends of God will have the patience and the tolerance for the way the Word will be treated in this Church, for we fully intend to be meticulous and strive for accuracy as we teach line upon line and precept upon precept.
- a) Our past experience has told us that the vast majority of people in this country who call themselves "Christians" have no stomach for being the friends of God.
- i. They are perfectly content with God being their friend.
- ii. But they have no serious interest in being God's friend.
- b) We will be bothered by these so-called "Christians", but we will not be dissuaded from our method and approach.
- c) The greatest challenge we all will face is handing the reins of control over to God.
- i. We are so used to being in control in so many areas of our lives that we will find it hard to give it up to God.
- ii. Our biggest problem will be recognizing that God is really the One behind the "men" who seem to be the ones in control (Romans 13).
- III. The Conclusion of the Matter.
- A. We are adding our voice to the many voices already in place.
- B. Our ministry niche is going to be the development of the friends of God.
- C. Our request is that people give us a hearing that is long enough to give a legitimate basis for evaluation of the question: is God in this work?